DETROIT — The CCHA Championship consolation game featured the tournament’s No. 1 and 2 seeds, both known for high scoring, exciting games, but the Miami RedHawks’ 2-1 victory over the Ferris State Bulldogs seemed to go against their season statistics.
Both teams came out flat in a game that was low in scoring and high in penalty minutes. The puck went up and down the ice without ever causing much of a scene. No breath-taking scoring opportunities, few great saves and little to stir the crowd in their seats.
The deciding factor in Saturday’s game didn’t seem to be goaltending, defense or the effort of the offense, but the reflection of 24 penalty calls. Though only one goal was on a power play, both teams wore themselves out with crippled rosters and players in the box.
It felt like the gravity of the game and its influence on the NCAA tournament didn’t dawn on the Bulldogs, who are uncertain of their place in the national picture, until Miami graced the scoreboard at 4:44 in the second period. Steve Mason, a freshman playing in just his seventh game, shot the puck from outside the right faceoff circle. The puck soared over the right shoulder of Ferris State goaltender Pat Nagle, where it bounced out of the net and was pushed back in again.
Knowing their NCAA bid was on the line, the Bulldogs retaliated at 14:49 with a power-play goal from Casey Haines and Blair Riley. No one seemed sure whether the goal was good or not — it was redirected somewhere along the line. The goal went under review the fans waited with bated breath, everything on the line.
“Blair saw me back door,” Haines said. “Actually, I don’t know if you were passing to me or not — it hit the top of my stick, bounced and hit my stick, and then I spun trying to find it and I’m not sure what it hit. It hit something and went in. Maybe my shin guard … I’m not too sure.”
Riley added: “Yeah, I wasn’t passing to you, Casey. We saw that we were kind of getting a bit of a gap between the forwards and the defense. I just tried to throw it.”
With the game tied up, both teams seemed to sit back on their heels again. Miami realized their high rank overall wasn’t going to reflect in the CCHA if they finished last in the tournament, and at 15:56 they scored their game winner, a gorgeous shot by Jarod Palmer from out front that went five hole. The time of the goal couldn’t have been more perfect.
“It’s a matter of working hard and executing,” RedHawks coach Enrico Blasi said. “I’m not one for statistics, you can throw those right out the window. It’s the timely goals that matter and we’ve been pretty good with timely goals all year.”
Miami’s victory may push them to be the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA tournament, but it also means that Ferris State’s once-secure spot is now up for grabs, with several factors contributing to the undetermined brackets.
“We still do have a shot of getting in the tournament,” Bulldogs coach Bob Daniels said. “There’s a lot on the line for us even though it’s a consolation game. It’s a tough loss for us. I thought we came out tentative and played tentative until Miami scored the first goal and then I think that we shifted gears from being nervous about winning to playing.”